Monday, August 22, 2011

California Native Plant Garden at the San Francisco Botanical Garden

A trip to the San Francisco Botanical Garden deserves at least several hours.  But, since our time there was short, I beelined for the California Native Plants Garden and spent most of the time there.  It turned out to be a great decision.

Plants in California's mediterranean climate are are adapted to summer drought and wildfires, signage at the Garden will tell you. You will read that evergreen plants develop tough leaves with a waxy coating, and their seedlings quickly develop taproots in order to reach underground moisture before the dry conditions of summer.

You find out that some plants complete their entire life cycles in the spring in order to escape drought. Annuals reach maturity and set seed which survive in the soil, sprouting with the next rainy season. Bulbs store food and water underground, the leaves sprouting in spring and dying back in summer.

Some plants are drought-deciduous, dropping their leaves in response to dry conditions and regrowing them once rain comes, like this California buckeye.  In North Carolina, a tree that looks like this in the summer is dead!

Many have seeds which require heat or ashes in order to sprout.

Some pine cones release their seeds after extreme heat. The seeds wait in the soil until moister conditions return.

Many of California's native plants have chemicals which deter predation.  These chemicals might stave off insects or other animals, but they often smell good to humans.  I enjoyed the herbal fragrances wafting through the air all over California.  It was, in fact, a favorite part of the trip.

If there's a wetland, I will find it...they call my name.  Fortunately, insects were minimal at this pretty spot.

Bright, fresh flowers blooming in a backdrop of straw-colored dry grasses is such a pleasing juxtaposition.

A field of California poppy (Eschscholtzia sp.) was particularly exciting to this North Carolina native.  They are sublime, but unfortunately, I haven't had any luck growing them.

I hope you've enjoyed the garden, virtually, as much as I did taking pictures for you.  And I hope you get to go, too, if you've never been.  California's native plants are so different from ours; they're quite spectacular.

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